On a fast and furious opening 96km stage, Alex Luhrs (Ribble Pro Cycling) took the win from a breakaway trio ahead of his teammate Dan Bigham on day one of the Kerry Group Rás Mumhan. Ben Healy (Team Ireland) just hung on to the flying English duo to take third.
Conditions were perfect as Stage 1 rolled out of Killorglin in glorious sunshine for three climbs on the roads around Sliabh Luachra in East Kerry. Speeds in the peloton quickly rose as high as 60kmph as the 155 riders fought for their place in the day’s breakaway.
After 20km a strong five-man group had formed containing Luhrs, Bingham, Healy as well as the in-form Sean Hahessey (Dan Morrissey/MIG/Pactimo) and the evergreen Paidí O’Brien (Killarney).
This group worked well and slowly built up a maximum lead of four minutes on the main bunch.
With 15km to go and the finish in Killorglin within the breakaway's sights, Hahessey and O’Brien became detached and were quickly picked up by an elite chasing group of 17 riders which had emerged from the peloton. With most of the teams in the race represented in this chasing group, they pushed on ahead of the peloton and the gap to Luhrs, Bigham and Healy dropped quickly.
By this time the winners had already allowed themselves a sizeable buffer and still held a two-minute advantage entering the final kilometre. The Ribble Pro Cycling team duo used their numeric advantage to gang up on 18-year-old Healy and left the young Irishman behind in the closing metres as Luhrs sprinted home in front of the crowds on the streets of Killorglin.
It was a case of deja vú for Luhrs who was victorious on the same stage 12 months ago.
“This finish suits me really well. I was lucky to have my teammate with me in the breakaway who worked really hard for me. The team is strong so we hope to defend the yellow jersey for the whole weekend.The roads around here are similar to the Lake District in England where I’m from. We love it over here.” said Luhrs.
Another rider gunning for stage wins this weekend, Richard Maes (Velo/Revolution/Strata3), says the hardest days are yet to come.
“Today was hard as it was deceptively windy out there.” said Maes. Coming into Kilcummin it really split up and lots of guys got caught out. Tomorrow is a more open day and will be more tactical while the Sunday stage to Coom en Easpig will be more of a war of attrition.”
Stage 2 takes the riders on a 130km loop, leaving Listowel at 11.00 before the uphill finish in Athea due at 14.00.